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'Right now it's probably the one position the coaches haven't inked in': Why there is no clarity yet over who will be Lions No10

By Liam Heagney

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Out-half has been described by ex-Lions skipper Sam Warburton as the one position where tour boss Warren Gatland and his recently confirmed list of assistant coaches don’t have any real clarity regarding a pecking order and he feels the situation will only clear up after the first few weeks of their South African tour. 

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Of all the predicted Lions XVs published by pundits and fans in recent weeks leading up to the May 6 squad announcement, there has been little consensus on the identity of the likely starting No10 when the Lions face the Springboks in the first Test on July 24. 

England’s Owen Farrell and Ireland’s Johnny Sexton, the starting Test No10s for the 2017 series versus the All Blacks, both had inconsistent Guinness Six Nations campaigns recently, mixed form that enhanced the credentials of title-winning Wales out-half Dan Biggar and Scotland’s Finn Russell. 

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Wales out-half Dan Biggar guests on RugbyPass All Access
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Wales out-half Dan Biggar guests on RugbyPass All Access

Biggar travelled as the third Lions out-half in 2017 and he didn’t let the squad down, demonstrating his value during the midweek matches, while Russell was fleetingly involved as one of the infamous ‘Geography Six’ drafted into the squad mid-tour by Gatland to lighten the training load. 

If 2013 and 2017 tour skipper Warburton is to be believed, there is no standout No10 candidate at the moment and he is wondering if this is the year that the somewhat underrated Biggar comes through to elbow aside Farrell and Sexton and become the Lions No10 Test side starter.  

“If all of them started I wouldn’t bat an eyelid,” he said after unveiling the Canterbury jersey the Lions squad will wear on tour. “People have shown me their teams over the past two weeks and whoever is at 10 I’m ‘yeah, I can’t argue’. I’m trying to take off my Welsh hat but I’m thinking Dan Biggar has got three Six Nations titles to his name, World Cup quarter, World Cup semi, Lions tour under his belt already, won a PRO14 title, a brilliant goal-kicker…

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“Last year he was statistically the best kicker in the world, great under high ball, great defensively, great reader, competitive. On the 2017 tour because he had two iconic players in their pomp in Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton, but he played amazing. He was so unfortunate he had two icons ahead of him.

“I wonder whether this is his year. It would be foolish now to pick who your Test 10 is going to be. That will unfold in the first three or four games on tour. Right now it’s probably the one position the coaches haven’t inked in. It’s the one position they do want to ink in but they haven’t and that will unfold early on tour.”   

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'Right now it's probably the one position the coaches haven't inked in': Why there is no clarity yet over who will be Lions No10

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